We Need an Asteroid


Me, I reckon that what we need is an asteroid strike. I don’t know how to start an asteroid, but I’m going to think about it. I see it as a matter of social responsibility.

See, societies are like people in that they get old, clot, lose flexibility, and then croak. They can’t get better. Like most things, they just get worse. A rule of thermodynamics says that rivers don’t flow backwards, plaque does not voluntarily leave arteries, and governments do not become more reasonable, efficient, or interested in the well-being of their populations.

What happens is that a government needs money, typically to do badly what it shouldn’t be doing in the first place, so Congress passes tax laws. These may at first inadvertently be simple, comprehensible, and tolerably light. Then the unscrupulous, and bureaucrats, who would be unscrupulous if they had the intelligence, discover that it is easier to have the government drain money from the people and give it to the sharpers than it is to work for a living. Taxes grow heavier to feed the growing number of trough-feeders.

The people who actually pay the taxes grow weary of playing udder to innumerable ticks and invent ingenious ways to avoid the taxation. Each new dodge inspires Congress to pass a new and more complex law to prevent people from keeping their money. Humans are ingenious when they feel someone else’s hand in their pockets. Thus regulations grow like kudzu on a Georgia road cut until you have three hundred shelf-feet of impenetrable law that no one understands, even the government. This is good for the ticks because when law metamorphoses into mysticism, the shifty can find loopholes. Meanwhile every special interest on the planet bribes Congress, which amounts to an inexplicably exalted garage-sale, to pass laws exempting the special interest. The result is an unworkable thicket infested with vipers, leeches, and hag fish. Hello.

Actually, I’m not sure that hag fish infest thickets. They may, though.

There is no way to fix the thing because too many people are employed in mismanaging this legal linguini, or profit from sweetheart deals bought from it. Coagulation works only in one direction.

Consider the space program. In 1957 the Russians put a sort of metallic grapefruit into orbit that said beep-beep-beep. No country can hope to survive that lets another country say beep-beep-beep to it, so the government built a vast buzz-cut technical bureaucracy to go to the moon. It turned out that nothing was there but rocks, and we already had lots. To keep the contracts flowing to aerospace industries which now depended on space, we built a space ship, which we barely had any use for, and then the International Space Station, which we don’t need at all. It is just orbital arterial sludge.

Actually I’m not sure why we went into space at all. There’s nothing there. I mean, that’s how you know it’s space.

The military is yet another example of a frozen national joint. We had a gret biggun after WWII which immediately clotted into the Pentagon which, if countries could have rheumatoid arthritis, it would be. A geometric embolism. We have it because we had it, not because we need it. If we want to deal China a staggering blow, we can just shutter Wal-Mart

Think. Why are we buying groovy new fighter-bombers, each of which costs more than Manhattan? We don’t have any military enemies, so plain old boring F16s are perfectly adequate for what the military really does, which is to butcher defenseless peasants. We are buying the whizzy bangy new birds because we always have bought them, and can’t stop. Too many jobs at stake, pokketa pokketa.

The Pentagon’s mind is frozen in amber, or perhaps solidified napalm, but anyway it can’t move. Obviously manned military aircraft are well into their, er, golden years, rolling their wheelchairs into the great aircraft graveyard at Davis Monthan. Afghanistan has shown that unmanned drones can kill unsuspecting children far more cheaply than great, swooshy, motingator contracts – airplanes, I meant to say – which raises the question of why we need aircraft carriers, which raises the question of why we need the Navy when we have a perfectly good Coast Guard. But things get worse with age. We could give the military Botox, face-lifts, liposuction, or human-growth hormone. Nah. Juices congeal. They don’t uncongeal.

Ponder education, if any. Once it concerned itself with instructing the young in such things as reading and writing and calculating. It too has clotted, and putrefied, and shed its former nature. Fem-lib removed from the classroom the intelligent women who gave it class and turned them into yet more useless lawyers. The vacuum filled with culturally blue-collar angry gals with what they believed to be college educations, a concept alien to them, and became a swamp of low-voltage feminist therapy intended to cure boys of being themselves, to nourish the hopeless, and instill a drab moralism they couldn’t articulate, much less spell.

That too has clotted. The link of schooling has broken, those coming up having no exposure to what “education” once meant. You can’t pass on what you have never had. This consumerist Dark Age has spread to what once was in fact higher education but has become a way of extracting years of interest on student loans. Clotted. There’s no going back. It’s over.

These bureaucracies, like gunch plugging a coronary artery, like filth occluding a drain, get thicker and denser with time. The problems they were supposed to solve go away, but the bureaucrats remain, and hire more equally pointless crats so they can feel important, and the forms we have to fill multiply, and the administrative burden grows, and money and business leave the country.

More cosmetic bureaucracies spring up. We now have TSA, which couldn’t catch cholera in a sewage outfall in Mumbai, but it has a huge payroll and a degree of corruption that would make the sewage outfall a cause for nostalgia. And it will never go away. Nothing does in government.

I figure that what we need is to tear the whole sorry system down and see what comes next. The best hope is that a patriot will learn how to impel some unused interplanetary object, Phobos or Deimos or Ganymede maybe, into Washington at ninety percent of the speed of light. This would eliminate the teachers unions, the Pentagon, AIPAC, Fox News, Langley, the Washington Post, lobbies, and my mother-in-law. Cockroaches would doubtless survive, that being what they do best, and evolve into a civilization less degraded than ours, briefly.

Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be. His latest book is Curmudgeing Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle. Visit his blog.